Thoughts on family, fatherhood, work, and home-life… in a post-global age

The Tradwife Movement Reminds Us of the Virtue of Service in Marriage

There seems to be what I see as the beginning of a substantial backlash against many things we have taken for granted in culture and society for the last five or six decades in the Western world, and particularly in America. One of these is the notion that motherhood and homemaking is an inferior, subordinate role that oppresses and demeans women, and that women should therefore eschew it, and join men in the workplace. The rise of the “TradWife” (traditional wife) movement is part of the kickback against this – and one with which, in large measure, I agree.

I was raised by a traditional wife and mother: Ma never worked outside the home during my lifetime, although she did work as an English teacher during the first few years of her marriage to Pa. But not long after my oldest brother was born, she left “outside” work, and returned to the home. And there is no question that I benefited – we all did – from her ability to devote her full time and attention to being a wife, mother, and homemaker. We had clean clothes, a clean house, healthy, delicious homemade meals, baked deserts, and much else, thanks to her not needing to squeeze such things around full-time (or even part-time) work.

I also have no doubt that I was saved from many opportunities to “sin and err” by the fact that I knew she (or if she had to be away, my grandmother) would be there waiting for me when I got home from school! And no matter how far I roamed, through the woods and fields near my house, I never seemed to be out of the range of her call (a resounding “Tooommmmmmmmmm!”), that echoed through the air, come supper time – to the awed amazement of my friends, who were shocked that such a small person (she was all of 5’3″ in height) could call so loudly.

I empathize with the nostalgia for the immediate post-WW II era. Although I was born in 1965, I was in many significant ways a “child of the 1950s”: Ma and Pa were married then, and both my brothers were born in the ’50s (I was a late-comer, and rather a surprise, at the time!). So I get it! My concern about the TradWife movement, however – despite my admiration for many of the women involved, and my agreement with the basic premise that both women and their families are benefited by them being at home with and for those families – is that many or most of them seem to take the 1950s as their template for what a “traditional” wife should be, and do.
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The Vocation of Motherhood… and Fatherhood, too.

The text that goes with this picture is a bit hard to make out, so here it is:

“Remember motherhood was God’s plan for women, not men. We all forget that motherhood is the norm and a career is abnormal. Some are compromising and urging our good high school girls to colleges and careers. Mother Teresa’s words are so enduring to our times when she said that, ‘God calls us to be faithful, not successful.’ Anyone who wishes to debate Mother’s words should pray to God for grace and insight to understand these words of wisdom. These words are especially true for the mothers of our day and time. Many mothers are so wrapped up in the ‘media success’ of these times that they see nothing wrong with going out to work. Very few mothers ‘have’ to work outside the home and it is to the detriment of family life.”

—Rosie Gil

As I wrote in response to this at the time, I agree – but I also think we sometimes forget that it was God’s plan for fathers to be at or near home most of the time, too, unless they were on a journey for the benefit of the family, or fighting to protect it.

Whether farmers – as were the majority of people until quite recently in human history – tradesmen, or merchants (the latter two of which usually had their shops or offices downstairs, with the family residence upstairs), most men spent most of their time in relatively close proximity to, and often / usually working together with, the rest of their family, right up until the Industrial Revolution.

I am not trying to detract in any way from the vital role and vocation of motherhood, or the desirability of mothers being able to devote themselves full-time to that vocation, if at all possible, and to the closely allied one of homemaking – literally, creating a home that is worthy of a family to live in.

I am simply pointing out that I believe God’s original plan was for families to be organic, integrated units of relationship, with all members working together for the common good, and supporting one another in daily living – not mom and kids at home, and dad working somewhere else, a long commute away, and only seeing them in the evening and on weekends.

The 1950s, as idyllic a time as it was in some (though not all) respects, was neither the norm nor the ideal, either – nor, certainly, were the “dark, satanic mills” of the Industrial Revolution. We have fallen a long way from the original plan, imho, in many respects!